# p-refinement in adaptive methods

Some reference in adaptive techniques say that when the solution $u$ is smooth enough we can use p-refinement instead of h-refinement. And when we have for example singularity, we should use h-refinement. I can not understand it. why? When we use a higher order polynomial for approximation we can get smoother solution, so it seems there is no problem for using p-refinement.

• Are you asking for a mathematical justification or some kind of intuitive idea?
– knl
Sep 17, 2017 at 18:41
• No, I just want to know the mathematical justification.
– Rosa
Sep 17, 2017 at 18:43

Limiting considerations to elliptic problems. The approximate solution can converge to exact solution if you do h- or p- adaptivity. If the exact solution is smooth, convergence is faster if you do p- adaptivity. To see this look at a priory error estimator, $$\| u - u^h \| \leq C h^p \left\| \frac{\partial^{p+1} u}{\partial x^{p+1}} \right\|$$ where $p$ is polynomial order of base functions. If the solution is smooth, higher order derivatives fast approach zero, so that a priory error estimator. So if you increasing order of base functions, you very quickly converge to an exact solution.
• Great answer. But in the formula, the exponent $\mu$ should be $p$, and you need the $(p+1)$th derivative instead of the $p$th. Sep 17, 2017 at 22:43